The head of the OIE office recalled the risks of disease X for the planet – Rossiyskaya Gazeta

An irresponsible attitude to nature can lead to new health problems for the planet’s inhabitants, warned in an interview with Rossiyskaya Gazeta the head of the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) Regional Office for Europe in Moscow, Doctor of Veterinary Science Budimir Plavshich.

First of all, we are talking about the so-called “disease X”.

Dr. Plavsic, what is disease X?

Budimir Plavsic: Disease X was added to the WHO list of priority pathogens in 2018. Disease X can be caused by a pathogen that is currently not known to lead to an epidemic. There may be speculations, but it is difficult to predict when and how strong an outbreak will occur.

An example is the current pandemic. In 2002 and 2012, there were outbreaks of disease caused by the SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV coronaviruses. Scientists predicted a third epidemic, which, unfortunately, escalated into a pandemic.

If we talk about future diseases X, then we do not yet know what kind of infections they will be. But we know that they can be caused by a pathogen from wild animals, as in the case of Ebola or COVID-19.

As the COVID-19 pandemic has shown, diseases have no boundaries, so you need to prepare for new outbreaks of disease X, and do it quickly.

Where and why do new viral diseases appear?

Budimir Plavsic: Russia is one of the most prosperous countries in veterinary terms. Photo: Sergey Kuksin

Budimir Plavsic: It is difficult to answer unequivocally. But among the key reasons – a careless attitude to nature, climate change. I worked with an outbreak of West Nile virus disease. Several years ago, in a number of Balkan countries, including Serbia, where I lived and worked before coming to Moscow, and in the USA in the summer of 1999, people were dying of fever. The disease is transmitted to humans and animals through a mosquito bite. Due to global warming, blood-sucking insects and ticks, disease vectors typical of Africa, are now found further north.

How exactly is the spread of viruses due to neglect of nature, and what do you think about the laboratory origin of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus?

Budimir Plavsic: For example, in the jungles of South America and Africa, there was originally a balance: between animals, plants, microorganisms and the environment. But people invaded there, including for the production of palm oil. At the same time, the world of microorganisms was not taken into account, the biomass of which exceeds the biomass of plants and animals. Because of this, bacteria and viruses have spread throughout the world. This has harmed populations of susceptible animals.

The current pandemic stems from the illegal production, trade and consumption of bushmeat.

You need to understand the risks of such practices and look for ways to mitigate them: through laws and monitoring at the outbreak site. This is important for early disease detection and warning.

75% of new human diseases are transmitted from animals, 60% of pathogens originate from wild animals

As for the versions about the laboratory origin of the virus, I rely not on conspiracy theories, but on facts. A scientific fact is considered established when different scientists, conducting the same research, get the same results. There is currently no evidence that the virus was created by humans. Conversely, there are many internationally peer-reviewed articles that prove otherwise.

How can pandemics be prevented?

Budimir Plavsic: Worldwide, there is a partnership between the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), which work within the One Health approach. People, animals, environment – everything is interconnected. Roughly 75 percent of new human diseases are transmitted from animals.

It is necessary to change the attitude of governments and companies. It is important that the concept of “One Health” is accepted by all and funded.

First, it is necessary to improve information systems for predicting risks using analysis and mathematical modeling. The OIE has its own OIE-WAHIS system. We also rely on the information systems of the member countries, there are 182 of them in the OIE today, and the OIE representative office in Moscow is responsible for 53 countries, including Russia, the countries of Europe and Central Asia.

Secondly, it is necessary to fund research, data collection, surveillance and monitoring, animal vaccination, veterinary support

By the way, Russia is one of the most prosperous countries in veterinary medicine. This is a great merit of the government, specialists from the Ministry of Agriculture, Rosselkhoznadzor and their institutions.

In a month, WHO will be discussing a new convention to prepare for pandemics. Together with the relevant departments of the countries, the OIE also prepares proposals. And I hope that if there is at least some “positive” effect from this pandemic, it will be expressed in the understanding of sustainable development and the development of a plan to prevent and prepare for such events in the future.


Source: Российская Газета by rg.ru.

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